Sunday, September 24, 2017

Oregon Outback - Day Four

Our ride into town the next morning was one of the most pleasant parts of the entire trip. We followed the Crooked River and zig‐zagged our way to Prineville. 

Two doe and four fawns were ahead of us in a field off to our left. The does jumped the barb wire fence and ran across the street. Two fawns followed and one of them almost took out an oncoming cyclist who was out for a morning ride. The other two fawns ran back and forth along the fence line looking for a way to follow the others. Hopefully, their moms waited for them. 

In Prineville, I ate one of the largest omelets I’ve ever seen at the Crossroads restaurant. Afterwards, we stopped by the Good Bike shop. A dog came up to me and I politely scratched it behind the ear. He apparently took that as a sign that it was time to play and started jumping on me and snapping at my hands. One of the employees yelled, “Hank, no! Sit!” The dog stopped pestering me. I said, “The dog’s name is Hank, huh? So’s mine.” The guy looked at me and with a smile said, “Hank, sit! Stay!” One Hank is enough for any one place so I didn’t stay. I signed the log book and stuck a push pin marking my home town of Spokane on the map. The shop was leading a ride to camp out that night and invited us to camp with them. We were inclined to do so but didn’t make any promises. We picked up a couple of items at a grocery store and started the climb out of town on the paved McKay Creek Road. 

For 12 miles we labored and found our way into the Ochoco National Forest. There were more cattle, including a couple of rambunctious bulls who threatened us from their side of the fences. Reaching the crest of our climb, the paved road turned right. But our route followed the packed dirt and rocky Trout Creek Road. And it was almost all downhill from there for the rest of the day. 

The first time we rode through the road’s namesake, Geoff stalled out after hitting a large rock. He fell over sideways and got a thorough soaking. I wasn’t quick enough with the camera so the photo I got of him was taken after he stood up. We rested there for a while and determined we had not passed by the campsite The Good Bike folks invited us to so we resigned ourselves to going it alone that evening. 

Subsequent creek crossing went without incident—I had the camera ready each time—and we obeyed the many No Trespassing signs posted on both sides of the road. We took on extra water at the first creek crossing and I filled a spare 2‐liter bladder since we weren’t sure what lie ahead in Ashwood, which was that evening’s destination. Wikipedia—Geoff has a downloaded copy on his smart phone—says it’s a ghost town. It turns out that isn’t true. Arriving in Ashwood we saw a small field with picnic tables and shade trees next to a grange building. We could hear people talking at one of the handful of houses there so we went over to see about camping in that field. We saw a few adults, each holding a can of Hamm’s beer, and a little girl who was 3 or 4 years old. The oldest gentleman got up and asked if we needed water. We thanked him and told him we were fine and asked about camping at the grange building. He told us we were welcome to camp there and informed us there’s a water spigot and two pit toilets in the back of the grange building. We chatted for a while and the girl, Allison, introduced herself and told us where her house was and asked us where we were from. 

We rolled over to the field to make camp and found a sign posted on one of the trees. Potential Snake Habitat. We had been warned there were rattle snakes along the way but hadn’t seen any yet. I got the idea to buy three cold beers from the people we met so I went back to them. “Excuse me,” I said. “Sorry to bother you but I have two questions, if you don’t mind. First, has the potential snake habitat ever lived up to its potential?” One of the guys said, yes, they find a rattler every once in a while and he’d just killed one last week at the creek just behind where we were camping. Then I asked, “Can I buy three cold beers from you?” They all thought that was pretty funny and laughed out loud. The woman spoke up and said, “We have Keystone and Hamm’s.” I told her we’d take the Hamm’s. They all laughed again and said I passed the test. The older gentleman retrieved three beers and said, “That’ll be a hundred dollars.” More laughter. I said, “How about two dollars apiece?” He agreed and I took the beer to Geoff and John. As nasty as Hamm’s beer is, it hit the spot after a day of riding in the hot sun. Later we found that a 12‐pack of Hamm’s can be had for $12.89. So two bucks was a pretty good price. 

As we set up camp I found that the 2‐liter bladder of water I had strapped to my rear rack and slipped out somewhere on the roads we traveled that day. I was always worried about our water supply and tended to carry extra just to make sure. Now I couldn’t. But we were ahead of schedule and our next day would be a short 30 or so miles to Shaniko.

Oregon Outback - Day Three

At 6:00 am, we awoke to the sound of spraying water. We pulled our tents off the lawn, turned the sprinkler heads back to where they should be, and packed up. After a big breakfast at The Watering Hole we headed out for what would be our longest ride of the trip. 

It was another sweltering day and there was less water available along this part of the route. I would ride on the edge of the road just to catch a moment of cool by passing through the shadow of a tree. We suffered through the miles and miles of loose red dust of National Forest Road 22. Our back tires would spin out on the climbs. The deep parts would grab our tires and bog us down like we were stuck in quicksand. With the increased effort and the heat we consumed most of our water. 

When we arrived at Sands Springs we found a fenced off puddle of murky, stagnant water with a cow pie at the water’s edge. We filtered some of it but the resulting green liquid was too unappealing for us city boys. We decided to do without. 

Arriving at Highway 20 with barely a pint of water apiece, we had two choices. We could ride the 25 miles to our camp site and water or we could take a 14‐mile round‐trip detour to The Stage Stop east of us on the highway in Brothers. We chose the latter. 

The food wasn’t anything to write home about but it felt good to eat and rest. When it came time to leave they allowed us to go back to the kitchen to fill our water bladders. Had I seen that kitchen earlier I would have skipped on the meal. 

We cruised seven miles back to our route and had a pretty easy ride for quite some time on Crooked River Highway—a gravel road where you could see a car coming from miles away. Sometimes the drivers slowed down to reduce the dust clouds trailing behind them. Sometimes they didn’t and we'd be treated to another coat of nature’s sunblock. We reached State Highway 27, a paved road, but then we had to climb for about three miles. 

One last bit of suffering before coasting down to the Prineville Reservoir. We arrived at the BLM Big Bend Campground near dusk. The campsite was a bargain for eight bucks. We slept the sleep of the dead after an 84‐mile day. 

Oregon Outback - Day Two

On the second day, we finished up the last nine miles of rail trail and switched to gravel and
forest service roads. 

We stopped in Silver Lake for a bite. I don’t recall how the subject came up but our waitress politely mentioned there were showers at the RV camp. It was only our second day of 90+ degree weather and I guess our presence was noticeable. It felt good to be clean for a short time.

Hey, a shower is a shower regardless of what the door says.

We lounged in the shade with the camp managers—small world moment—whose son happens to be a lieutenant in the Spokane Fire Dept. 

Fort Rock is the dark formation ahead on the left. 
It's still miles away.

We pressed on to Fort Rock. Fort Rock State Park was visible several miles away and it seemed we rode forever to get to it. John said it was like the Law Vegas strip. The casino is right there but after walking a mile it’s still another two miles away.

Ike barked a warning as we entered the Watering Hole Tavern in Fort Rock. After a perfunctory sniff he allowed we could stay. Maybe the showers helped. We enjoyed draft beer served in iced mugs with our meals. 

The tavern owner gave us permission to camp in the parking lot across the street but we had our eyes set on a much more comfortable lawn at the community church. Unable to contact anyone from the church we asked a neighbor if she’d think they’d mind if we pitched our tents on the lawn. “Of course, not,” she said, “They’re church people.” Then I asked if there was a problem with the church, could we pitch our tents in her yard. She became a little guarded. “Well, when would you leave?” I assured her we would be out of her hair in the morning as we planned to have breakfast when the Watering Hole opened at seven. She was okay with that. 

The lawn at the church was one of the few spots we saw that had a sprinkler system. Hence, it’s strong appeal as a cushioned spot to bed, something I needed because my sleeping pad had a slow leak. We turned the sprinkler heads to face the opposite direction.

Oregon Outback - Day One

It was 10:30 pm in Klamath Falls, Oregon. My brother John and I retrieved our bikes from the Amtrack baggage car, loaded up our panniers, and rode to meet my son, Geoff, at the hotel where we would spend the night. Our train arrived late for the 4th of July fireworks show at the nearby fairgrounds. The after‐party fireworks flashing randomly around town served as our welcome to the launch point of the Oregon Outback route.

The next morning, after our free continental breakfast, we struck out on the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, a rail trail, heading east. We passed walkers, joggers, and other cyclists as we gobbled up the nine paved miles on bikes weighing about 70 pounds with gear and water. 

In less than an hour we reached what we sought—rough and rugged trail. For the next 60 miles we rambled through ranch land with countless cattle, pastures with horses, and some wetlands whose vegetation grabbed at our panniers and threatened our rear derailleurs with destruction.

We stopped and took turns opening and closing the 40‐50 gates apparently used to keep cattle from crossing property lines. Several times there were cattle on the rail trail. Young calves were alarmed by our presence and didn’t know which way to run. Cows grunted as they dashed away lest we get too close. Bulls behind the fences snorted and a couple even pawed at the ground. We carefully got by one large bull on the trail who seemed to pay us no mind. But we still looked back a couple of times to make sure.

An abandoned snow plow train engine greeted us at the 55‐mile mark. Resting on a small length of abandoned track, it stands as a testament to works achieved during a different time. Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” came to mind. “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” 

We ground our way through the loose gravel for a couple more miles when we noticed the gravel road running parallel to us offered easier riding. That didn’t last very long as the trail veered away soon after. After a careful study of the map we decided we could link back up to the trail “just ahead.” We stopped by a lone house and got permission from the homeowner to refill our water containers with their spigot. After turning onto two
different forest service roads we found we had to get past a barbed wire fence to get back on the trail. A loose spot gave us enough room to squeeze the bikes through sideways and we were back to grinding through the loose stuff again. 

Seventeen miles later we found a suitable camping site alongside the trail on the outskirts of the Fremont National Forest. We watered up at a nearby creek.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Two More Finely Crafted Instruments

Last night I woke at 3:00 am and couldn't get back to sleep so I decided to make good use of my time and build a couple of Diddley Bows. I went with guitar tuners and metal wound guitar strings this time so the instruments would stay in tune and be easier to get back into tune.  One has a G string and the other has a D. They both sound great.

I still need to cut the sound holes. I haven't bought a hole saw yet.

Only the finest hose clamps go on a Diddley Bow made by Hank Greer.

Cheap bits of old hardware work well for the bridge and to anchor the string.

Needed a guide screw to keep the string centered over the nut, i.e., hose clamp.

I cut away part of the rod to create a flat surface to mount the tuner.

It's 25 inches from bridge to nut so marking the frets is the same as a standard guitar.